Doug Stamper, and why he fascinates me

I took to the A-Z challenge thinking that I would write about things that I like, places that I’d like to be at, stories that fascinate me. So after a recipe, and two food joints I want to tell you about a character who fascinates me. The central characters in most stories get a lot of attention and love. In itself there’s no harm with that, they are the central characters for a reason. However there are times when the supporting characters are awesome on their own. One such character is Doug Stamper from the House of Cards TV series by Netflix.

dougflix

Doug Stamper is Frank Underwood’s (a central character of the series) Chief of Staff. He is ruthless and efficient as Frank, and seems to lack a conscience quite like the underlying essence of the show. It doesn’t how something needs to be done. What matters is the when and the what. This is why he is an essential man by Frank’s side, part of all his schemes and manipulations. He is more than a henchman, he is fixer, and a failsafe. He deals with situations and people many times, keeping Frank updated so that Frank can do what he has to.

The premise of the series is that Frank has been promised the position of the Secretary of State for his work in securing the election of the President. However once in power, he is passed on as the President feels his need in the Congress instead. Soon Frank and his wife start their covert machinations to gain power, influence and what was to be rightfully theirs. All this with a generous helping of vengeance. Doug doesn’t question any of this, he understands. He accepts this in a very matter of fact manner, as if it is to be the natural progression of things.

He uses coercion and fear as means to get his things done. He is keen at spotting weaknesses of people, and then how to exploit them. Such is the effect of him and his machinations on people that, when approached about it by a member of the press the person chose to let their life and troubled past be out in the papers instead of telling of what Doug got done through them. His machinations go on to the level of setting up people much in advance, only for them to be brought down at the right time, in the right manner for Frank to benefit from it.

While Frank (who routinely breaks the fourth wall to address the viewers) has many wonderful quotes in the series, one quote of Doug’s and his manner of delivering it is very impressionable. He was once an alcoholic where it got so bad that it began to interfere with his life and work. He was one of the few people Frank gave a second chance to, and Frank has been undyingly loyal to him for it. He has remained sober for more than 14 years, but still attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. This was what he said at one such meeting, which he as a sponsor took a recovering alcoholic to.

dougaazero

I’m Doug and I’m an alcoholic. One of the things I do for a living is count. I count votes. Yays, nays, neutrals, abstaining. And I’m good at it. But the most important count I do has nothing to do with work. It’s the number of days since April 4th, 1999. As of this morning that’s 5,185. The bigger that number gets, the more it frightens me because I know all it takes is one drink for that number to go back to zero. Most people see fear as a weakness. It can be. Sometimes for my job I have to put fear in other people. I know that’s not right. But if I’m honest, like the fourth step asks us to be, I have to be ruthless. Because failure is not an option. The same goes for my sobriety. I have to be ruthless with myself. I have to use my fear. It makes me stronger. Like everyone else in this room, I can’t control who I am. But I can control the zero. Fuck the zero.

Michael Kelly, the actor who plays Doug has my respect for his wonderful performance. He really puts the spirit in the portrayal of this character.

Written for Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge